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Mondo Guerra raises money for ActionAIDS this week (courtesy of the designer)

Mondo Guerra raises money for ActionAIDS this week (courtesy of the designer)

When Mondo Guerra made his debut on Project Runway, he did so with reservations. As a designer, he was inspired by bold, bright colors and taking risk. But in his personal life, he was keeping a big secret.

In an interview with Marie Claire, the 32-year-old said this about coming out as HIV-positive: “I’ve been HIV-positive for 10 years, but I’m healthier now than I have been for years, physically and emotionally. It took a lot to get to that point. I realized that I’d been denying them the opportunity to really be my parents – to support me and give me the love and courage I needed.”

He revealed his HIV status while a contestant on the show, surprising his friends and family.

“It wasn’t my mission to be the new face of someone living with HIV,” he said. “But for the textile challenge, I lied to everyone. I danced around the true symbolism of the pattern. When Nina [Garcia] said, ‘I wish I knew what the story was,’ I was given the opportunity to talk about it. My life changed in that minute. I never knew it would change so much for the better.”

During the two years since he first appeared on the hit reality television show, Guerra has been designing his own line of fashions. He’s visiting Philadelphia this week to support Dining Out for Life 2013, an annual event that benefits local AIDS organizations, at the Hotel Palomar (6 p.m.).

The designer, whose been creating limited-edition t-shirts and other merchandise to benefits HIV/AIDS organizations around the world, will be unveiling a new shirt at a special Valentine’s Day event (Feb. 14). The limited-edition tees will go on sale through April 25 (this year’s Dining Out for Life in Philly) on the ActionAIDS website.

Last year, more than 200 participating restaurants across the Delaware Valley raised more than a quarter of a million dollars to help fund AIDS charities. Here in Philly, nearly 20,000 people are currently living with HIV/AIDS – and the rate of new infections is about four times the national average.

Proceeds from Guerra’s t-shirts will benefit ActionAIDS and help spread the word about not only HIV prevention, but also this spring’s Dining Out for Life.

Click here for more information about this week’s event – and to find which restaurants are participating this year.

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